Key Points:

The agreement on a free trade deal with China is a welcome and significant event.

China is already this country's fourth largest export market. Given that our exports to China since 2000 have grown more than three times as fast as they have to the rest of the world, China will probably be our largest market in less than 10 years.

National is supporting the China FTA because it will be of economic benefit to New Zealand, just as other moves to free up international trade over the past 40 years have benefited the country.

One of my main aims is to lift New Zealand's economic performance. We must stop and reverse the decline in our living standards relative to other countries. But the China FTA is only going to benefit New Zealand if we are determined and work hard to leverage the opportunities on offer.

The FTA is a good deal but trade agreements of this type are only about opportunities, and we now have to move decisively over the next few years to take advantage of it.

We may be the first developed country to have an FTA with China, but it would be naive to imagine we will be the last. This is all about exploiting the early advantage we have gained over other countries.

The whole world is at China's doorstep, as everyone sees this giant consumer market emerging. Nobody owes New Zealand a living and we need to move aggressively.

Should National become Government, we intend to further strengthen NZ Trade & Enterprise operations in China. We will also be actively encouraging business and entrepreneurs to look at the opportunities China offers.

But exporting is more than effective marketing or diplomatic representation.

New Zealand must take full advantage of our greatest strategic asset - our location on the rim of the Asia-Pacific region, the powerhouse for the world economy. The fact is that our future is in the Asia-Pacific region.

If we, sitting on the rim of the fastest growing region on the planet, cannot turn that geographical advantage into a significant economic success story, we have only ourselves to blame.

Ireland made much of its location on the edge of Europe to fuel the economic revolution there, and I believe New Zealand can do much the same in relation to its proximity to Asia.

What the FTA with China will give New Zealand is access on reasonable terms. That is no guarantee of success.

And trade is not the only component part we need to take action on.

Like the Irish, we still need to get tax levels competitive, our infrastructure fixed, and our education system delivering the people we need if we are to turn trade access into economic success.